Drake recognized him from the jump. All arms and legs with a joker’s smile, he was hard to miss and harder to forget.
He opened the door but didn’t get in. “How ya’ doin’ kid? Long time no see,” he said.
“Doin’ great, Jackie. Thanks for asking. Hop in.”
But Jackie Miles stayed put. Despite the ocean breeze and a short sleeved shirt, beads of sweat ran down his cheek. “No. I flagged you down for a friend.”
His eyes locked with Drake’s for a second and then darted away. “Hang on a minute. I’ll get him.”
Drake watched him disappear behind the door of The Paddock as his wheels began to turn. Unlike other night clubs on the strip, The Paddock put up no pretense. It was mob, all mob and nothing but the mob.
The door swung open. An older man, petite except for his belly, dressed in a silk Cubano and cuffed trousers walked out. His two toned oxford’s gleamed as he got into the cab. Drake recognized him too.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Carfano. Where are you headed?”
“Take me into the city, Allan,” said Little Augie. “And call me Gus.”
It wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all.
Yeah, he carried a gun, but just for protection. “You’ll never use it, kid,” Little Augie said.
He carried envelopes and packages too, delivering them, usually, no further than across the room, from one table to another, though sometimes it was across town and, rarely, across state lines. Drake never inquired, never hinted.
He did not want to know.
His duds got fancier. He acquired a tailor. Little Augie gave him a pair of solid gold cuff links and a Longines Gent’s.
At a table for one he ate Italian dishes, like corn over quail with prosciutto gravy and duck ragu. He sipped Brunello wine and Cuban coffee while he waited for Little Augie to finish talking business with “friends”.
Sometimes, while alone in his suite, Rollo the bellman would bring him a pot of Maxwell House with milk and a bowl of white beans cooked in brown sugar and catsup. That’s when Drake would miss his apartment; yes, even his dad…
But that hardly ever happened because he was always with some stripper from The Paddock.
Little Augie felt the rumblings more than he heard them, and that spooked him a bit since, as capo, his ear was turned to the street more than Costello’s. He even made a trip to New York and had a sit down about it.
But Frank assured him that everything was copasetic. And Little Augie believed him–for the most part.
He believed him because he wanted to believe him; because if he didn’t, he would have had to turn on him. And Little Augie didn’t want to do that.
Sure, Frank was Little Augie’s best friend, but it wasn’t that; Little Augie had turned on friends before. As the saying goes, “it’s just business, nothing personal.” The problem was, when it came to Vito Genovese, it was personal.
Vito made Little Augie’s skin crawl.
You see, Vito was a hard ass for the sake of being a hard ass. For him, wet work wasn’t a just a byproduct of business, it was Lucanica–and worse than that (because, let’s face it, Little Augie was tight with Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia ) Vito had no pretense of sensibility–not even humor–about it.
That’s why Luciano tapped him as underboss after he crossed Masseria and then double crossed Maranzano; Luciano wanted an enforcer in the number two position as a deterrent. In actuality, the real number two was his consigliere, Frank Costello.
Some of the old school mafioso didn’t trust Costello because he had married a Jew and was “too flashy”. They favored the more “working class” Genovese instead.
But Lucky Luciano trusted him. And that’s what counted. He went back further with Frank than anybody, except for Myer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, who in the strictest sense of Cosa Nostra hierarchy, didn’t even rate as soldiers because they, too, were Jewish.
Despite the friction, the flux, the constant churning, Lucky was the one guy who could bring everyone together and keep the money train chugging down the track. And boy, oh boy, did it chug! The guy was a criminal genius.
But even geniuses make mistakes. Lucky’s big mistake was with the ladies of the evening.
He underestimated them.
The woman he underestimated the most, though, wasn’t a prostitute; she was an assistant D.A. to Thomas E. Dewy. And she was black. Her name was Eunice Carter.
Now don’t forget, this was way back in the 30s so it was a big damn deal. To get where she was, at the time that she did it, she had to be big time smart–a lot smarter than Luciano.
And she was. She graduated cum Lade from Smith and earned her law degree from Fordham–both hoity toity schools.
Despite her upper class upbringing, her many college degrees and high society lifestyle, Carter empathized with the plight of the prostitutes–many of them women of color–that she was charged with prosecuting. Through her meticulous diligence and her rapport with women that knew more than they should have, because the men who ran their lives thought so little of them that they divulged secretes they otherwise wouldn’t have, Carter pieced together a complicated racketeering case that led to the door of, arguably, the most powerful mobster the world has ever known.
Of course Thomas Dewy got all the credit…but the bottom line was, Lucky Luciano got busted. Big time. He did eleven years and then got deported to Italy in a deal he made with the government in which he provided intelligence on Nazi infiltration of the waterfront.
Even so, Luciano was still the boss when it came to making the ultimate decisions. As such, he didn’t want Vito Genovese running the ground game.
All the worry was for naught, however, because Vito screwed up and had to flee the country for Italy before Luciano had a chance to act. And that’s when Frank Costello stepped in.
And that’s when things went from good to great for Little Augie. Costello sent him to Florida to run the gambling rackets in Miami. Little Augie got fat–and very rich. They all forgot about Vito for awhile.
As it turned out, they underestimated him too.
Vito managed to finagle himself out of multiple murder indictments by committing multiple murders. Go figure.
Not only that, as a double agent of sorts, first working as a hit man for Benito Mussolini and then, during the allied invasion, switching sides and leading a highly profitable black market smuggling ring that ensnared many high level officials, he managed to blackmail and threaten his way back into the states, all the while avoiding prosecution.
Now Vito wanted his old job back.
But Frank said no. More importantly, Lucky Luciano said no.
So, Vito slinked back to his position as capo of the powerful Greenwich Village crew in Manhattan; a very lucrative position, no doubt, that most gangsters would kill for.
To be cont’d…